Grenfell Tower victims remembered at Westminster Abbey on fifth anniversary

Names of the 72 people who died in the blaze were read out in Westminster Abbey

The Grenfell fire memorial service at Westminster Abbey in London, to remember those who died. PA
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A memorial service marking the fifth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire has taken place at Westminster Abbey in central London.

A total of 72 people were killed when a fire that started in a faulty freezer ripped through the 24-storey block in west London in 2017. It was the worst residential fire in Britain since the Second World War.

Multi-faith leaders read out the names of the victims of the tragedy during the service, which was attended by former residents, politicians and the families of victims.

After each group of names was read out, the congregation said in unison “Forever in our hearts” — the phrase emblazoned across the top of the covered-up tower in north Kensington.

The congregation then observed a moment of silence. The silence was broken by the sound of an oud played by Rihab Azar.

Former UK prime minister Theresa May, London's mayor Sadiq Khan, housing secretary Michael Gove, former building safety and fire minister Stephen Greenhalgh, and shadow housing secretary Lisa Nandy were in attendance.

Survivors, the bereaved and community groups also paid their respects and laid flowers at the foot of the tower, which is still shrouded in tarpaulin.

Opening the service, the very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, Dean of Westminster, said the loss and anguish “are still vivid and sharp” as the congregation gathered “in sorrow and in pain”.

He said: “Here we renew our commitment to remember those we have lost.

“We gather as those who look for justice and a renewed commitment to securing safety in our homes, safety in times of fire.

“Grateful for the support of the communities and individuals that have sustained the bereaved and the survivors over the last five years, we meet in faith and hope looking to a better, safer, surer future.”

It comes as politicians paid tribute on social media, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeting: “Today marks five years since the Grenfell Tower fire took the lives of 72 people.

“My thoughts are with the survivors, those who lost loved ones and the wider community.”

It is one of several events at which Grenfell survivors, the bereaved and the community gathered on Tuesday.

At 2pm a 72-second silence was observed at Westfield shopping centre, close to the site of Grenfell. The names of the 72 victims were read out over the public address system.

Later in the afternoon, cording around the tower in north Kensington was removed so survivors, the bereaved and community groups can gather at its base for a multi-faith service and to lay flowers and wreaths.

In the evening, firefighters from across the country will form a guard of honour as members of the community take part in a silent walk starting from the base of the tower.

Residents of the block have recently claimed little has changed in regards to fire safety, half a decade on.

One survivor of the blaze said it may become “the precursor to something bigger” because of the lack of progress in implementing change.

Last month, the UK government said it planned to keep the controversial “stay put” policy, meaning residents of most buildings should wait for rescue services rather than leaving in the event of a fire.

Tiago Alves, his father Miguel, mother Fatima and younger sister Ines escaped from their home on the 13th floor in the early stages of the fire.

Thiago Alves, 25, told the PA news agency: “A lot of the people who managed to survive were people who managed to get out early because they ignored ‘stay put’ advice.

“And so… I’m gobsmacked at the fact that we’re still having this conversation five years on.”

Since the disaster, owners of up to 1.5 million flats in blocks taller than 11 metres have found it difficult to sell their homes due to issues over dangerous cladding.

It was recently reported that 640,000 people across Britain live in homes at risk from fatal fires, despite the government pledging £9 billion ($11bn) to help strip dangerous cladding from buildings.

Earlier this month the government announced that specific kind of cladding used on Grenfell was banned from use on all new buildings.

Fire safety guidance published on June 2 saw the prohibition on metal composite material panels with unmodified polyethylene core, known as MCM PE. A ban on MCM PE previously only applied to buildings higher than 11 metres.

Grenfell Tower Fire and aftermath — in pictures

Updated: June 14, 2022, 2:29 PM